A pharmacist who successfully opposed extensive lobbying by alternative healthcare practitioners to gain approval and reimbursement for an unproven cancer remedy has won an award from campaigning charity Sense about Science.
Olivier Bernard, a community pharmacist in Quebec, Canada, was awarded the prestigious John Maddox Prize for ‘Standing up for science’ at a ceremony held in London on 12 November 2019.
The award recognises his “courage in taking responsibility for communicating evidence rather than the easier path of silence or complicity”, said Tracey Brown, director of Sense about Science.
Bernard spoke out repeatedly, warning politicians and patient groups of the lack of evidence for the use of high-dose vitamin injections, said Sense about Science. This included death threats and complaints to his employer and professional body — as well as publication of the address of the pharmacy where he works.
Colin Blakemore, one of the award’s judges and professor of neuroscience and philosophy at the University of London, praised both Bernard’s stance and Bernard for taking a stance at an early stage in his career.
“His crusade against the cruel deception of those who peddle vitamin C injections to vulnerable cancer sufferers is a remarkable example of personal commitment to the fight for honesty and integrity in the application of science,” he noted.
Bernard said: “Throughout the controversy surrounding vitamin C injections in Quebec, I have learned that scientific decisions made by political entities can be easily swayed by interest groups.
“I’ve also learned that fighting for science can be stressful and scary, and may even come at a personal price. But defenders of science cannot afford to stay in the background.”